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Mike Z “Top 10 albums of 2019”-Wired In The Empire

Mike Z “Top 10 albums of 2019”-Wired In The Empire

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10. Motionless In White "Disguise"

If you want an updated version of Marilyn Manson, then Chris Motionless and the band Motionless in White are the band you are looking for.  Metalcore mixed with some Industrial metal.  Although I don’t love every single song on their latest album “Disguise”, I do love the different styles and voices Chris uses throughout.  He can sing, scream and do a little something in between.  Motionless In White will be hitting the road on a co-headling tour with Beartooth called the “Diseased and Disguised” tour which will be at the House of Blues in Anaheim on Thursday, January 9th

Motionless In White "Brand New Numb"

9.Volbeat "Rewind, Replay, Rebound"

Three Danes and one American make up the band Volbeat who released their 7th album “Rewind, Replay, Rebound”.  Their continued formula mixing every style of rock from Rockabilly to Thrash Metal and everything in between continues to shine on this album.  Another Volbeat trademark (and this album is no exception) is guest appearances from Neil Fallon of Clutch, Gary Holt of Exodus/Slayer.  This is NOT a concept album as guitarist/producer Rob Caggiano (the one American) said to me, “it’s a very reflective album, but it’s not a concept album”.  

Volbeat Rob Caggiano at Knotfest

Volbeat "Last Day Under The Sun"

8. I Previal "Trauma"

Five fast years after rocketing to fame with their cover of the Taylor Swift song “Blank Spaces”, their latest album “Trauma” has been rocketing my world this year.  I Prevail: The two headed singing attack of Brian Burkheiser (clean singing) and Eric Vanlerberghe (unclean singing) which is reminiscent of Linkin Park.  Not only vocally but musically as well with songs that would appeal to metal fans and pop fans like Linkin Park did.  We rock fans need a band to cross over into the pop world and I believe that I Prevail is the band to do just that.

I Prevail "Breaking Down"

7. Amon Amarth "Berserker"

Swedish death metal vets Amon Amarth continue to churn out melodic riffs, pounding drums and guttural vocals from singer Johan Hegg all throughout their latest album “Beserker”.   The easiest way to describe this band is:  Iron Maiden riffs with Lemmy Motorhead vocals along with blast beats.  I also love that their songs always tell a story and take you on a journey through history.

Amon Amarth "Raven's Flight"

6. Baroness "Gold & Grey"

Baroness rewarded fans with the almost double album (seventeen songs on it) “Gold & Grey”.  The album title is appropriate as there are songs which are “Gold” (bright and loud) and some that are “Grey” (softer and melancholy), a nice balance between the two.  The new ingredient on this record was guitarist Gina Gleason who replaced original guitarist Pete Adams who left the band in 2017.  Her vocal harmonies with singer/guitarist/leader John Baizley melt together like butter on a warm biscuit.

Baroness John Baizley interview

Baroness "Tourniquet"

After a 13 year wait between albums, Tool rewarded fans with 86 minutes of music on their latest album “Fear Inoculum”.  This is (like all Tool albums are) one that you listen to from start to finish. Not a singles driven album where you just skip around to your favorite songs.  Listening to Tool is a commitment.  A soundscape journey through many different sounds and textures with brilliant playing by the four members of Tool only.  They even received a Grammy nomination for their song “7empest”

Tool "7empest"

4. Wage War "Pressure"

I can’t think of another band that has grows simultaneously heavier and melodic at the same time as Wage War did on their latest album “Pressure”.  Just when you feel like the music is getting to heavy or soft, it flips and sometimes several times in each song.  Lead screamer Briton Bond took leaps forward in the singing department on this album.  Guitarist and clean singing Cody Quistad of the band said that Briton has sung before here and there but really wanted to sing on this album and he has found a 3rd gear on this album. 

Wage War Cody Quistad interview

Wage War "Low"

3. Slipknot "We Are Not Your Kind"

Slipknot always bring the brutality, and there is certainly no shortage of their latest album “We Are Not Your Kind”.  Plenty of tunes to get the circle pit moving throughout the album, but ironically it’s some of the slower, moodier, creepier songs on the album that stood out to me.  Songs like “Spiders” and “My Pain” which tune down the guitars and turn up the industrial, creepy factors that have always resided within the band, but never been on full display like they are this time around.  And a big horns up for two big steps forward from drummer Jay Weinberg who got to contribute more and shine more and leave his memorable drum parts  on this record (compared to his first record with the band “.5: The Gray Chapter).

Slipknot "Nero Forte"

2. Whitechapel "The Valley"

Whitechapel singer Phil Bozeman bares his sole on their latest album “The Valley”. Based on his childhood and watching both his parents die a couple of years apart before he was even old enough to drive. Some of the lyrics on the album are taking directly from his mom’s journal.  That would be enough to make the list, but there is plenty more to “The Valley” beyond the subject matter.  I’m not sure if it’s just from being a Whitechapel fan over the years, but I really hear and comprehend (more than ever before) Phil Bozeman’s guteral growls on all the tunes.  Some outstanding clean singing as well on “Hickory Creek” and “When A Demon Defiles A Witch”.  As if the singing and the subject matter wasn’t  enough, I was shocked to learn while talking to Whitechapel guitarist Alex Wade that Phil actually wrote the riff for one of the heaviest tunes on the album “Black Bear”.

Whitechapel guitarist Alex Wade interview

Whitechapel "Hickory Creek"

1. Killswitch Engage "Atonement"

Changing record companies usually has little to no impact on an artist, and maybe it didn’t this time around either, but Killswitch Engage’s first album on Metal Blade Records “Atonement” is my album of the year.  There isn’t a bad tune on the album and the usual balance of Jesse Leach singing and screaming is on full display through out the album.  But somehow, someway, the riffs on this album are hungrier and juicier than ever.  I don’t think Killswitch Engage has ever had guest vocalists before but two of my favorite songs are just that.  Guest vocals from Testament’s Chuck Billy on “The Crownless King” and my favorite tune on the album “The Signal Fire” with current Light The Torch singer/former Killswitch Engage singer Howard Jones.  When has the old singer ever done a guest spot of the band he is no longer in?  And hearing both Howard and Jesse’s voices together on the same tune is a dream come true for any Killswitch Engage fan.

I’d also like to announce that “Wired In The Empire” PRESENTS Killswitch Engage along with August Burns Red and Light The Torch at Riverside Municipal Auditorium on March 25 2020.  Tickets on sale now, see ya at the show!

Interview with Killswitch Engage bassist Mike D

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